Island escape: How artist Manel Anoro's home in Menorca inspires his work


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The Independent Online

The Spanish artist Manel Anoro lives a divided life: half in Girona, Catalonia, and half in Biniarroi, on the island of Menorca. He has a studio at both – and is equally passionate about both: "I have one foot in Menorca and one in Girona and I do not like losing any of the feet and [going] lame. I deeply love Menorca. I deeply love Catalonia." But it is this studio, a low, simple but vivid space in Menorca, where he does most work.

The passion he feels for the landscapes in which he lives is apparent in his work – Anoro has had more than 70 solo exhibitions of his eye-poppingly vibrant, parrot-colourful paintings around the world, and many are inspired by Menorca. "I am [one] of the few remaining artists who like to paint from life, so I know Menorca like the back of my hand," the 67-year-old claims. "I paint a lot outdoors."

And he has plenty of space in which to do so, with a large courtyard as well as a studio. "I sincerely believe that today the best form of wealth is space," he begins, before adding that he doesn't just mean property – he means your whole natural environment: "Just the sea, fresh air, the sky without airplanes… [just] me and the space. I cannot be in a small room."

It is easy to see the influence of his sunny surrounds in his paintings. His bungalow is bordered by a riot of giddy blooms, and though the walls are coolly whitewashed, the doors, window frames and even a coffee table seem to sprout in a green as lush as the nearby trees. k

Not that Anoro takes any responsibility for the interior decor; he leaves that to his wife. She is also the talent behind the pretty patchwork in their bedroom. Which leads him to mention that it was fabric that got him interested in art in the first place, as a very young child – he has described his youth as a "Technicolor movie", thanks to his mother's job as a dressmaker. She surrounded herself and little Manel with rolls of bright material and scraps of patterned cloth – although it was not until the 1980s that he found his way back to colour, as an artist, and began to use it in such vivacious ways in his own work.

"We associate colour with happiness, at least in our culture," the Catalan artist begins. "Everyone asks me about [why I use the] colours [I do] in my paintings and the answer is always the same: I do not know! The painter does not know the why of things." He chalks it up to a kind of divine inspiration, which it does not do to question too closely: "I do not know why my hands are my hands and I have the right not to know."

Anoro's paintings range from landscapes to portraits and nudes to still lifes, though they're almost all as glowingly bright as a tropical fruit bowl. And a few have made it on to the walls of their Menorcan home. While they may not, Anoro suggests, be his best pictures, they are the ones that were a challenge, where he felt he successfully mastered something new: they constitute the turning points in his personal history as a painter. "A painter paints and paints. [You] try to improve. Sometimes, on a good day, you step forward. This painting – the one that represents a step forward – is a favourite son. People who see this picture do not know anything about this story. But the painter knows."

What are these favoured sons, then? Above his bed is an oil painting of Alaior, a nearby Menorcan village. "When I started, it was very difficult to do my first painting of the village… this was the first [time] I was satisfied," says Anoro. Adorning the wall of their "living and dining and everything room" is a lithograph of one of his favourite works, a zingy still life, while over the sofa hangs a piece entitled Looking Outside: "The secret here is a new colour combination that made me happy at the time."

Not that all his decorations are quite so artistically minded – his studio space features some unlikely clutter. Sure, there's the practical straw hat he wears when he goes out painting in the sun, tins of paint, pencil sharpeners, a radio. But he's also propped up a Serge Jacques book of saucy pin-ups, to "transport me to my teens", as well as having a gun which he uses to "kill the gulls that eat the eggs of my geese" (when not painting, Anoro spends his time rearing geese, chickens and lambs). As for those wooden stick figures, they might be in trademark Anoro brights, but these "scarecrows" are actually the work of his grandchildren. Such an array, Anoro says, "may represent the contradictions or disposition of my spirit." And there's certainly no denying he's colourful.

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